How to Practice Spanish at Home
Of course, the best way to learn a language is immersion: just dive right into a Spanish-speaking country and start swimming! But if taking vacations was that simple, we’d do it a lot more. So, in the absence of a plane ticket and a week of beach loafing, what can you do to study Spanish at home?
If You Can’t Talk, Listen
If you can’t bring yourself to the Spanish, bring the Spanish to you! This is where songs and movies come in. These are amazing language learning tools—especially Spanish songs—because you can practice with them, literally, any time and anywhere, and you don’t need anyone else besides yourself.
Songs: One of the Best Ways to Practice for Beginners
Songs are without a doubt one of the greatest ways you can practice your Spanish: not only do you practice vocabulary, but you also learn vernacular (the way real Spanish-speakers talk). And, most importantly, unlike most other practice you can do by yourself, you learn how to understand spoken Spanish. For anybody that’s ever learned Spanish from a textbook and then tried to have a conversation with a Spanish-speaker, you know what a challenge this is. In real speech, people speak quickly, with various accents and inflections, and words blend together. It takes a practiced ear to pick out the words being spoken and make sense of them. Luckily, with songs, you can play them over as many times as you want.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to practicing Spanish with songs:
Pick a song you like (you’ll be listening to it a lot) and give it a listen or two before you look at the lyrics.
- Look up the lyrics. Now, listen to the song three more times while trying to follow along with the words in front of you.
- Grab your favorite Spanish dictionary and look up all the words you don’t know. Try to translate the song—it will help you remember it if you understand it.
- Again, listen to the song three more times. Try singing along! And, when you feel comfortable enough with it, put away the lyrics sheet. Try to follow or even sing the words of the song without your lyrics cheat sheet.
- You may not be the next Shakira, but I bet you can hear the words of the song much clearer now than when you started! Believe it or not, this skill also transfers. The more you practice with songs, the more you will be able to understand real people in real conversations.
Movies: For the Intermediate or Advanced Speaker
Have you moved beyond songs, rock star? Or you just want to try something a little more challenging? Great! Movies are another good way to practice your Spanish listening and comprehension skills. Movies are a more challenging beginner’s tool because they move quickly and they don’t have the same repetition that makes songs so helpful. But for intermediate or advanced speakers, movies are a perfect way to blend learning and relaxation. If you can’t loaf on a beach in Mexico, may as well loaf on your couch, right? Right! So, how do you practice Spanish with movies?
If you’re an intermediate speaker, then pick a favorite movie in English, and turn on the Spanish subtitles. Try to follow along with the subtitles. Make sure you don’t get lazy and just start watching the movie!
If you’re an advanced speaker, then either pick a popular English-language movie that has a Spanish language track, or, even better, a favorite movie in Spanish. Turn on the English subtitles, and try to hear and understand the words as the actors speak them. Make sure you don’t just fall back on the subtitles without trying to match them to the words. Pay attention to the inflections and the way people speak naturally. And if you have a friend who’s also trying to learn Spanish, watch with them! That way you can even play movie trivia after the movie, to see how much you understood. Or if you watch alone, try looking up a detailed synopsis to test your understanding.
As you can see, you’ve got a host of options for Spanish practice. Hanging out, listening to music, and watching movies—sounds pretty fun, doesn’t it? So what are you waiting for? Go practice some Spanish!